Chiesina Alpini

At the park above Colle is a beautiful memorial to the Alpini,  Italy’s mountain soldiers. They are light infantry troops specialising in mountain combat. They are known as Penne Nere (Black Feathers) thanks to the raven feather worn on their distinctive hats.

Chiesina Alpini

Unfortunately the little chapel was hit by a tree in the recent storm. Chris, who lives nearby, took the photo.

Chiesa Alpini

There is a prayer inside the chapel.

Chiusa Alpini

Let’s the chapel will be OK.

 

Then and now…Il Paretaio

Above Ponte a Serraglio going towards Colle is an area called Il Paretaio. It was one earliest areas settled in Bagni di Lucca.

It is a delightful walk up from the river, past the Hotel Bernabo, through the archway called dello Spiffero, past the church of San Martino built in 1292, past the decaying residence of the grandduke of Tuscany Leopoldo II of Lorena and up the hill.

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At the end of a tree lined road you come to a little square. Last century there was a cafe there.

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It was clearly popular.

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Now it is a private house.

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What a pity. It would be wonderful to walk up there on a summer evening for an aperitivo.

From Il Paretaio it is possible to keep heading uphill to Colle and further on to the park at the top of the hill.

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The tiny Cheisina Alpini was built in 1951 to honour the brave Alpini soldiers.

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There is also a track leading down from Il Paretaio towards La Villa. The pathway is called Via dell’Amore, Lovers’s Walk. The path is a bit overgrown now, but you can see that it must have been beautiful once. There are stone seats along the way and it is easy to imagine well dressed people strolling on a warm afternoon and enjoying the pretty surroundings.

In spring I will walk with my camera and show you the wild strawberries, mini crocuses and primulas growing beside the track.

Meet Emilio Ferrari from Colle

To begin my quest to visit and photograph the villages that make up Bagni di Lucca, I decided the first should be Colle. I’m not sure that Colle is actually a village. It is a delightful collection of houses that I can see on the hill directly in front of my house. It always looks beautiful and I have walked there many times.

looking towards Colle from my balcony

Colle in spring

looking up from Ponte a Serraglio

from the walking bridge

I wanted to know a bit more about Colle apart from what I had discovered myself and it was suggested that I talk to Emilio Ferrari, who was born in Colle 80 years ago. Emilio and his lovely wife Alfa kindly invited me into their home and were happy to talk about their lives in the village. Before I go on, don’t you just love the name Emilio Ferrari, and what of the chances of a Ferrari marrying an Alfa???? And they drive a Fiat.

Emilio told me that Colle is actually the oldest part of Bagni di Lucca. There used to be a castle on top of the hill just past houses that are there now. It was owned by a count and everybody living in the surrounding area worked for him, cultivating the land on the hill leading down to the Lima valley. Later on the city of Lucca had the castle destroyed to prevent it falling into the hands of Federico Barbarossa who was fighting in Italy in the 1100s.

The little village survived and the people living there grew grapevines all over the hillsides. The hills were terraced and vegetables were grown as well. Sheep, goats and cattle were kept for their milk and to provide meat. Now there are only a few vineyards left, one of which belongs to Emilio, the one I can see from my house.

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Emilio’s house in Colle

Emilio was born in the house where he lives today. He left Italy in 1951 to work in Brazil. He recalls have to pay a sum of money as a guarantee that he would not run off to Florida, a popular place for young Italians at the time. He also spent time working in France. He eventually returned to Colle and married Alfa, a local girl from a little further down the hill. They have been married for 44 years and have 2 adult children.

Alfa and Emilio

There are only about dozen people living in Colle now and it is difficult to believe that it was once the hub of what is now Bagni di Lucca. The building next door to Emilio once housed the Comune office.

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the door to the old Comune

autumn at the Comune building

The walk up to Colle is quite steep, especially the last bit, but the views make the trek worthwhile. There are magnificent views of the mountains and the Lima valley below.

a view from Colle

bee hives in Colle

snow on the mountains

an old house in Colle

an old wine press

Emilio’s family of cats

If you keep walking through the village there is a path which takes you to the top of the hill, where there is a picnic ground and a monument to the Alpini soldiers.

the path to the top

the little house on the track to the top

Chiesina Alpini

After climbing to the top you will need to retrace your steps back to the village.

The best views of all are from Emilio’s balcony.

the view from Emilio’s house

my house beside the bridge

Alfa and Emilio

To walk to Colle from Ponte a Serraglio, take the road between the post office and the Bridge Hotel and head towards Bagni Caldi, keep going uphill and follow the signs. The road to the top is surrounded by chestnut trees and the walk is lovely. There is a path on the other side of the hill that takes you down to La Villa.

I like to walk to Colle on misty winter mornings.

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an early morning winter view of Colle

Emilio is often at Il Monaco in Ponte a Serraglio, where he likes to have his morning coffee. Say hello if you see him, he likes a chat.